So instead, we talked about husbands, kids and childhood memories,
but, for some reason, the closest I got to talking about Jesus was, “I love
On another day, my neighbor’s face looked worried as we met on the
road. I was out for a morning walk. She was driving her six-year-old to the
hospital for a CAT scan. I glanced into the back seat where he was wrapped in a
blanket. Lord, help it not to be serious, I said inwardly. “I’ll be
thinking about you today,” I said outwardly.
I’ll be thinking about you? What
good will that do?
She drove away, and I prayed for them.
It turned out not to be serious so I thanked God—just between the two of us—but
I wondered why I hadn’t been honest with my neighbor about prayer.
Jesus said to “go and make disciples
of all nations.” I want to live our Christ’s commission, yet I often seem to
withhold my true beliefs when it comes to my faith. I’m realizing I have
different reasons for clamming up and that as I get honest with myself
about those reasons, I’m able to be more authentic with others. Not only is
honesty helping me to understand my own strange behavior, it’s helping me to
tell others that Jesus cares, and that I care enough to let them know. If you
struggle with being candid about your faith, maybe you’ll relate to some of my
reasons for camouflaging what I believe and the ways God is helping me to get
real about the Good News.
Reason #1. Some unbelievers seem okay without
One reason I hesitate to share my faith is that some unbelievers seem
alright without Christ. My friend, Jean*, says she is not a Christian. She
won’t go to church because she uses bad language. Yet I’ve known her to take in
a homeless stranger. When a fire destroyed a nearby community, she gave the
best of her belongings to those who had lost everything.
The painful truth is, she laughs more than I do and does more good
deeds. For some time, I thought I had nothing to offer her. She was more
Christlike than I was, even without Christ. But as I’ve grown closer
to Jean, I’ve learned she deals with unforgiveness, marriage problems, and the
same temptations and fears common to us all. The difference is, she suffers
through her pain without the comfort and healing of Christ. While I’m far from
perfect, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says I’m being changed from glory to glory. Jean,
however, shares that she feels more and more like a victim, despite her desire
to do good.
Only Jesus loves Jean like she longs to be loved. While her good works
may bring temporary happiness because they line up with God’s ways, she needs
to know that Jesus gave His life so she could have abundant, eternal
life. I also remember what my life was like without Christ and the many ways
He’s set me free. He’s given victory over sins that once enslaved me, replaced
misery with joy during times of suffering, and is changing my desire to take,
into a desire to give.
Even though some unbelievers I meet are relatively good people, I must
remember it’s how Jesus lived and died that saves them, not how godly they
appear to be.
When Jean recently discovered several lumps in her neck that required
a biopsy, I didn’t say, “I’ll be thinking about you,” but, “I’ll pray for you.”
Then I listened while she shared some of the hurtful events of her life from
childhood sexual abuse to difficulties in her marriage. Since then, I’m
becoming more open with her about what Jesus has done for me. I’m finding I
don’t want to keep such good news to myself. I want her to know how much Jesus
Reason #2. I’ve turned people off in the
Another reason I’m slow to open up about Jesus is that I’ve turned
people off in the past. My neighbor Deb* once asked if Jehovah’s Witnesses had
knocked on my door. I could have been honest and told her I’d unsuccessfully
tried to talk with them about my beliefs. Instead, I decided it was
my chance to witness—not out of love, but to add credentials to my
spiritual resume. I went into a discourse about Heaven, Hell, the Second Coming
and prophesy. I took up a good part of her afternoon and sent her out the door
with a Bible and two Christian movies.
She was careful after that not to bring up religion. I was embarrassed
that I’d treated her so impersonally. Afraid to offend, I focused more on
“lifestyle evangelism.” The problem was, I was so subtle, only those who knew
me well knew I was a Christian.
A couple of years after my sermonette, Deb stopped by my house to tell
me she was moving. She also said she’d been reading the Bible and believed its
message. We cried and I told her I’d pray for her to find a place to worship.
She later phoned to say she’d found a Bible-centered church and was attending
My experience with Deb has proved that even when I think I’ve turned
someone off, the Word of God is at work. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “[My word] will
not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the
purpose for which I sent it.” When I speak God’s words, He makes them yield
fruit. Knowing that it’s God who reaches hearts, despite my
awkwardness, I’m learning to be honest about my faith and let Him take over
Reason #3. I’m trying to please people more than
Sometimes, honesty means saying things that displease others. A couple
of moms on our street knew I was a Christian. I’d invited them to church and
taken their kids to VBS. Still, I often nodded knowingly when the two of them
gossiped as we walked to and from our kids’ bus stop. I didn’t want to seem
One day, they were talking about how bad another woman’s children
were. My neighbor said her son was going to beat up the two younger boys if
they didn’t change.“He just can’t take it any more,”
she said, as if violence were the solution.
I knew the absent woman tried to be a good mom. I also knew the Holy
Spirit was urging me to be honest. I decided to let them know my true
“You need to teach your own children to be peacemakers,” I
Both women looked at me in surprise.
“Kids do bicker and fight at times,” I continued. “I did,
too, at their age. But we need to teach them to be kind.”
This time it was my neighbors who nodded as our gossip session came to
a halt. The next day, our conversation was more positive, and within a month,
the boy who was going to hammer the other two told me his family had attended
church. I can’t help wondering if, after all my attempts to coax them to church
had failed, a little honesty was what helped my neighbor see her
I tend to avoid offending others, but when I think of the approach of
John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, and Jesus, I see there is a time for
disturbing the peace. Paul said in Galatians. 1:10, “If I were still trying to
please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Getting my eyes off of
people’s opinions and onto God’s is helping me to open up, which means getting
bold with those who need truth more than I need to be liked.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my attempts to be honest with
unbelievers, but I’m finding God has grace to use me despite my blunders. It’s
His power, not mine, that draws people to Christ so I’m learning to spend time
with Him first, then be authentic.
Recently, I noticed my hair was in need of attention. I decided
against a do-it-yourself job. Instead, I sat in a comfortable chair at my
favorite salon where a skilled young woman touched up my highlights. It wasn’t
the same stylist I’d seen last Christmas, but, as before, we talked about life.
There was one difference this time: Our conversation included our spiritual
lives. It turns out she’d attended church, but an argument among leadership had
sent her away confused. She’d since been living away from Christ. She seemed
ready to find a place of worship, so I invited her to my church. I’m not sure
if I’ll see her there. I’m glad I was real, though. Maybe God will use
something I said to draw her back to Him.
If you find openness with unbelievers daunting, ask God to show you
why. Try listing your fears and faulty perceptions. Once you’ve been honest
with yourself, decide to get honest with others about your faith. Being real is
opening the doors to new opportunities to share why I’m a Christian. And why
not? It’s who I am.
Dawn Yrene is a writer living in Tijeras, New
*names have been changed
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